I was 20 years old when I started watching Pretty Little Liars; I was definitely older than the average viewer. I've since covered the show for Refinery29 for the last four years. During that time, I have met people of every age, gender, and background that fell in love with this show about teenagers running from all kinds of villains. Sure, there is A — the murderous, blackmailing stalker who has followed their every move for seven years. But, A is not their only villain.
They've had to deal with the downfalls of technology being used to record their every move. They have had to deal with the group-think and bullying common among high school. Each of the girls have felt the judgement and limitation of patriarchy — these women were videotaped in their bedrooms without consent by of age men when they were underage, they were manipulated and seduced by the older men in their life, and they were blackmailed by their fathers. They have been told over and over again that they were "crazy" or "wrong" each time they spoke the truth, always being told they were too young and too dramatic (read: too much of a young woman) to truly understand what was happening to them. These young women weren't just tortured by A but by the whole community that should have been supporting them.
While the murder mystery and it's many twist and turns were definitely addicting, I kept watching because of the friendships the characters formed in order to survive. There are very few shows that really get what female friendship is like in your late teens and early 20s. Pretty Little Liars aced it. The constant reveals of dead bodies may not be the foundation for most friendships, but the show does capture the complicated and all encompassing feeling of friendship during this time. Tonight was an overtly mushy, but much appreciated, send off of that friendship.
Surprisingly it is Ezra (Ian Harding) who reminds the Liars their friendship is what makes them different. Last week Ezra and Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) learned Mona (Janel Parrish) is the mastermind behind the Liars' Lament game, and this week they run and tell the girls. The only problem? Aria (Lucy Hale) is not with them because the girls shut her out of their circle once they learned she worked with AD. Even though Ezra is my least favorite character, he did say one of the best lines of the show, "Do you know what makes AD so dangerous? She can't forgive. That is the only edge you've ever had over her, and now you don't even have that."
Cue the tears and re-readings of Harry Potter. Yes, just like the boy who lived, what separates the Liars from the person they literally can't name is their ability to love. It's not an original super power by any means, but it feels right all the same.
Ezra doesn't just call out the girls for losing their edge against AD, but for being hypocrites. They've all made some BIG mistakes.
Aria has murdered someone, Hanna (Ashley Benson) has murdered someone, Emily (Shay Mitchell) has betrayed Toby...again, and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) has embraced the black hoodie and paid for a cop's drink with the credit card of the dead man she just buried. The secondary players' hands are no cleaner. Caleb was paid by Jenna to spy on the girls. Toby joined the A team. Ezra created a lair so he could have a devoted space to spy on the girls (and still never figured out who A was because he is the worst spy in the history of the world). And then there is Ali — Ali's bullying has been the catalyst for almost every storyline on the show.
I mean, the whole mess started when Ali (Sasha Pieterse) threw a smoke bomb into Jenna's (Tammin Sursok) shed and blinded her. When Ali convinced the rest of the girls to lie and blame everything on Toby (Keegan Allen) instead of apologizing to Jenna, she started a domino effect of lies and mistakes that might never end. This might not be the crime that AD can't forgive them for, but it all seems to come back to punishing these girls for the mistakes they made before they were 16.
Ironically, even after being reprimanded for not being able to forgive, they all agree Mona must be AD. It's not a completely illogical jump. Mona was the first A after all. She did blackmail, stalk, and secretly bully them for years. I just wish they hadn't all jumped on board of another red herring so fast.
Caleb and Hanna depart for Mona's apartment, right as Mona is leaving. Someone has stolen the game, both physically and metaphorically, from Mona. In the game's place they left a note saying, "time for pie, be there." Hanna and Caleb follow Mona to Two Birds, the exact place Mona said she was supposed to meet Charlotte (Vanessa Ray) the night of Charlotte's murder. Spencer joins Caleb and Hanna just in time to learn that (surprise!) Hanna and Caleb got married.
Caleb confronts Mona about being A, and Mona doesn't even pretend to not be involved. Turns out Mona is not a liar anymore. She admits she had the game, she admits someone stole it from her, and she admits she told Hanna the game's pull would be too strong if she helped. Mona literally told Hanna that she was afraid she would torment Hanna and her friends again with access to the game, so no one can act offended she did just what she said. Mona realizes what no one else will fully admit. They were never ahead of AD. AD knew that Hannah would show the game to Mona and that Mona would get pulled in. Mona is scared.
AD sends an order to Mona delivered on her bill, directing her to leave the restaurant. Mona runs into the Ladies' room and out a secret passageway that connects to the church. Spencer and Caleb climb through the tunnel to find out where Mona ran off to, while Caleb sends Hanna home. Why he sends his wife home alone when there is a murderer and all of Rosewood PD after her, I will never know. Caleb and Spencer use this moment alone to discuss how they are happy to be where they are now but don't regret being together, but honestly, I'm not sure anyone needed closure on their relationship. I don't think where were Spaleb fans. (If you are a Spaleb fan, PLEASE comment, I have questions for you).
Emily and Ali spend the whole episode just being in love. They admit their feelings for each other. They worry about their baby. They fall asleep in each others' arms. Most of it was filler for the fandom, but Ali did make a great point. If Emily and Spencer end up in jail then their baby will end up without a family, growing up in homes and hospitals, just like Charlotte. It starts the game all over again.
Aria meanwhile is about to turn herself and Archer's body into the cops. She feels she needs to do some grand gesture to show her friends she is sorry for helping AD. Ezra stops her just in time. He convinces her that she doesn't owe this to her friends (true), but also tries to convince her to run away and let everyone else take the fall for his murder. Considering he just lectured everyone else about how love and friendship has to come first, this monologue didn't really make sense, but I guess desperation makes everyone a hypocrite.
Aria has learned her lesson though and won't put her happiness with Ezra above her friends. Ezra and Aria go collect Emily and Ali so they can all leave the jurisdiction of Detective Tanner (Roma Maffia). One problem: They can't locate Caleb, Hanna or Spencer. (Also, they definitely wouldn't all fit in one get away car....).
That's because those three are solving a bigger mystery. Hanna ends up back at the church, and sees flower petals coming from the bell tower. The bell tower has been an ominous place for A and her dolls. This is where Ian (Ryan Merriman) was pushed off the bell tower, it's where all of the Liars have had a near death experience, and it's where Charlotte's body was found. Hanna climbs the stairs to find Mona rocking the look she wore back in 2010, when her main hobby was getting bullied by Ali.
Mona confesses she killed Charlotte that night. Like I said, Mona is no longer a liar. She met Charlotte at the bell tower to confront her. She knew that Charlotte was still playing the game. She had fooled Ali, the doctors, and the court into believing that she was reformed, but she had every intention to treat all of the Liars like pawns in her own game again. Mona didn't want to go back to that life, and she wanted to protect her friends. Charlotte had made a fatal mistake when she started bullying Mona. By giving Mona and the Liars a shared enemy, they created a real bond. Mona bashed Charlotte's head in at the bell tower out of self defense. The murder weapon has never been in hiding, but always part of the chapel looming directly above where Charlotte's body was found.
Because Mona told the truth the Liars got the remaining puzzle pieces. The map took them to Archer Dunhill's (Huw Collins) body. He was buried at Aunt Carol's house under Charles' grave. In a nice touch from the writers' room, the grave that symbolized the birth of CeCe, the woman who destroyed the Liars' lives, is now the resting spot of the body that could destroy their lives all over again.
They are about to dig into the grave to uncover the body when Aria speaks true words of wisdom: Why? Why are they letting AD tell them what to do over and over and over again? She says, "If we want to stop the crazy, we have to stop acting crazy." Amen. Finally. Let's get these girls a prize.
They turn and walk away from the grave as the police show up on the scene bulldozer in tow. The girls are once again caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with a shovel in hand.
Detective Tanner wastes no time in arresting the girls, but it turns out she always knew they would be released. Mary Drake (Andrea Parker) has confessed to the murder. Her confession explains everything. She hit Archer because he had lied to her and blackmailed her about Jessica's death. She got the car repaired. She showered in Spencer's shower, which is how windowsill glass got down the drain. To top it off by admitting she murdered Jessica too. By doing this she doesn't give Spencer a chance to turn herself in and save Mary. Coming clean won't keep Mary Drake out of jail, so what is the point?
This all just feels like more of the game — Spencer watching her biological mother and Ali watching her biological aunt go to jail for a murder they did. Spencer has lost so much during this game, and this is another thing to add to the list. Mary Drake mimes to the girls to keep secret, perhaps the final finger to lips "shhh" sign we will see during the show. Detective Tanner admits to the girls she knows Mary didn't kill Elliott, but she also knows that it's a tidy story. Detective Tanner seems to resign to the fact she will never be able to prove her theory about the girls. They are released.
They check on Mona and bring Dr. Sullivan back to town to help Mona out again. This time it's not just Hanna that shows Mona true friendship, but all of the girls. While each person has played their part, Hanna has always been the heart, which according to this episode might have been the most important weapon in their arsenal. Hanna showed true friendship to Mona and Lucas (Brendan Robinson), who in return protected the girls from the more dangerous A.
The Liars return home to get rid of the game. Liar's Lament finally turns off. The lights stop. The phone dies. The board stops buzzing. It's over. The combination of Mary Drake turning herself in, the friends all reuniting, and Mona confessing to Charlotte's murder finally let the girls live in peace.
There's time for one more cheesy line about friendship and everyone leaves the game behind. The episode ends with A driving into the sunset with all the pawns. The game may be over, but A made sure she still had hold of her favorite toys. Because like Mona says the game is never over and we still have next week's series finale.
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